Pangolin Videos

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

He wanted his freedom

Goodbye Balin. Thank you for
teaching me about your kind. I'll
always treasure your time with us.
It has taken me a few days to post this last report as I have been very sad and yet hopeful. On June 15, Balin got out of the cage and has not come back since.  I am sad because I would have wished to release him when he was bigger and in a less populated area. Happy he has gotten his freedom to be a wild creature for a bit. But now I will never know what happened to him. We are new too many people who will do it harm, either by poaching and selling to illegal wildlife traders for meat or by the locals eating it.

The pangolin is one of the most poached animals in Palawan. It has no teeth and curls up into a ball when scared. That is it's only defense. Even though it has very sharp claws it never uses them for defensive purposes, only to dig in hard mud and rotten trees and such.  When captured they are usually sent to China for exotic meat and they also grind up the scales for their traditional medical, though it's effectiveness is not proven and with today's pharmaceutical technology, I am sure there is something else like a plant to do the same without killing nature's natural pest control. They eat only primarily ants and termites and also grubs of beetles and other such insect.

These are the last shots I got of him. It was the dearest, sweetest creature I have ever had the privilege to rescue and care of. He was so gentle. I do pray he has not been captured and that he will remain free as long as possible. God speed dear Balin and may the angels of earth watch over you. I miss you so much and fear for you. You're human mommy for a bit.

The little pangolin weighed only 700 grams and was 29.9 centimeters from head to anus, and tail length was 22 cms. when last we took the measurements in June. Still just a little guy.
We will never know if Balin is alive and well or if he got injured. This makes me so sad as we had planned on releasing him when he grew larger and putting a tracker on him, then releasing him in a less populated area.
This is young bamboo, looking so much like a pangolin it would fake me out thinking it was Balin until I realized it wasn't moving.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Will to live

Still steadfast in his quest to find his food on his own. Even after having fallen down a hill into a creek and then off a bridge into the creek a second time. He just kept going for 2 1/2 hours on the property until he finally tired and crawled up his guardians leg. He was then brought back into the animal enclosure for the night where thankfully, he stayed.

For the last two nights Balin has gotten out of the animal enclosure (AE). Pre-dawn, about 5 AM, two mornings ago, Dave spotted it coming from the opposite direction of the enclosure... trundling home in it's awkward fashion. It had found a way out and had been foraging on it's own all night and was heading straight towards the enclosure.

Last night I went down to see it and it was gone by 10 PM. It had been taken out to forage earlier by his caregiver Rj and put back when he had his fill for awhile. I suspected it wasn't getting enough to eat since in the wild they probably would forage for awhile and rest then forage some more.  I decided to leave the latch open  in the enclosure so it could push the door open rather than have to crawl around to his bolt hole. When I got up this morning the door what open baby pangolin sized and he was in his sleeping basin. What a relief. I hardly slept a wink worrying about how he might go in the road and get run over!

It's growing and needs more food than previously. Plus, I had been told by a pangolin researcher that the babies his organization cared for grew faster.  It's very hard for us to harvest as many ants as it can eat in a day.  We lack the proper facilities to supply it with its own freezer harvested ants and termites for the rainy season which just hit tonight it seems. Quite the downpour.

The approximately 3 month old pangolin squeezed almost his entire body into the bamboo pole.

Today, we think we got the weak spot in the enclosure fixed, or so we think. I decided to go ahead and let it out when it was time to be fed as opposed to being carried to the spots to eat, I just followed where it wanted to go on it's own. It went straight for the bamboo groves where it has been taken for 2 months now. It immediately found a rotting bamboo pole that he had previously scavenged and it literally almost crawled all the way inside of it. The ants had rebuilt their nest inside the next chamber. I was so amazed that it was able to squeeze his spiny body inside. I thought we might have to help extricate him.  We didn't. He made his way out fine on his own. This creature amazes me.

I had serious doubts it could get out on it's own so I told Jhun to be prepared to help break open the pole.
The little scaly anteater that could! This little guy has such a will to live. He only weight 700 grams now after two months of staying with us. He is only, including tail, 47 centimeters long. Not including tail 25.5 centimeters in body length

Amazing where he can stick that pointed head of his.
This is the first night in 2 months it has not been carried out to eat and assisted in finding the food. Tonight for 2 1/2 hours it wandered on it's own and found it's own food. I noticed it had a lot more perseverance in sticking to one area now that he's had to work at finding his own food. When he was carried in between spot to spot he had a tendency to turn his nose up, as it were, if he didn't want an ant at that moment, or that particular kind of ant. I noticed tonight that he stayed a long time at the food he found on his own and didn't exhibit his picky behaviour at all.

When it had it's fill of the ants inside the first bamboo pole tonight, it wandered up the hill by the creek and then down a bit. We heard this splash,  it had fallen into the creek. It just righted itself, swam a bit and headed back up the hill again.  It crossed the bamboo bridge to get across the creek, leaned over and fell in again. Kersplash! No problem. It swam upstream a foot or so and began his ascent back up the opposite bank and another bamboo grove known by him to be particularly infested with several varieties of ants. He's just so determined to survive. If he survives us caring for him, he can survive anything as we have been flying by the seats of our pants.

He has no problem and frequently finds ant nests in the cut bamboo stumps.

He's done with this hole for the night.
Balin's alternate guardian. Instead of carrying the anteater to it's prey, tonight we let him wander off on his own with Jhun trailing behind him to watch and see where it went. When it was brought back to it's cage there was a big termite mound waiting for it. It snacked some more on it and then slept the rest of the night. It didn't attempt to get out the rest of the night.

Moving on to greener pastures as it were.

As I write this, I can hear Jhun pounding on a termite mound they found earlier, to break it open so that later, Balin can feed on it back inside the safety of the enclosure. Hopefully tonight with the food inside, it will not have to find a way outside to eat more. We can't afford a dedicated person to just follow it all night. Tonight Jhun said when it had it's fill, it found him and crawled up his leg to rest. He then took it back to the enclosure.

It's raining quite hard outside and of course I fear the rain will wash away his scent trail back home. I do hope I am wrong if he does manage to get out again.

Here is the video of him at dusk when he first left his enclosure to forage on his own without any help from his guardian.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A scaly survivor

Balin, the baby scally anteater is a sweet
survivor. It's just a few days past 2 months
this adorable pangolin has bee with us.
Click photo to enlarge
Each day when I get up, I anxiously await the moment our rescued survivor whom we have named Balin, wakes up. Each day is a challenge to find the ants and termites he eats. Each day a chance to interact with such a gentle creature. It doesn't even have teeth!

When we first got him, he would wake up in the mornings between 11am and noon. Several pangolin experts across the globe suggested removing any disturbances around him that would cause him to awaken so early since pangolins are nocturnal mammals by nature. We realized our dog Max was barking right next to Balin since that is where he was stationed to keep the chickens off of our outdoor sitting area next to the animal enclosure.

A sitting area made from bamboo on our property. I had it made so I would have somewhere comfortable to sit while I observe or interact with our various rescued wild life and a domesticated talking hill myna bird.
This is Balin, pausing for a photo op in between feeding on a harvested mud termite mound.
It will eat for up to two hours, foraging with the help of his two caregivers, Jhun Solis and his young 16 year old extended family member.

Balin is emerging from a black ant's nest after eating all the eggs and pupae it could find.

Since moving Max, the guard dog, the pangolin now wakes up between 4:30 PM and 5 PM, closer to it's natural nocturnal eating schedule.

This morning while having coffee, Dave noticed a creature walking outside. It was Balin strolling back to the animal enclosure from the opposite direction! It means it was out cavorting all night! We do live near a paved main road so my fear is that it will wander in the dark and be hit by a speeding motorcycle, the most common means of transportation in this Barangay- (Village). They are slow and awkward walkers.  Later when Balin wakes up to forage, we may let him find his own way out so we can see where he gets out!  It is a good thing to see that he knows how to find his way back to his current home, the animal enclosure. Had we had our wits about, we might have let it go back to the cage and watch where it gets in. At the crack of dawn, not so swift in thinking!

Just one of the many challenges of caring for an animal with an opposite body clock as us, it's caregivers. It's telling us it needs to get out more to eat then we can provide. We don't have an all nighter caretaker.

We plan on using the small pool intended for wading, as a habitat for the ants or termites. This way maybe it's prey will come to it at night so it won't try to escape. I do, however doubt it. Balin has an indomitable spirit and he doesn't seem to let anything waylay his needs. I believe now that he has found his freedom, he will want to do so more and more.

Balin, the little survivor. This baby pangolin has such a strong will to live. It's admirable.

When Balin first came he weighed about 500 to 520 grams. Two months later he weighs only about 640 to 700 grams, very slow growing. I'm sure he does need more food. In body length he came in at 20 centimeters with a tail length of 21  centimeters, it has now grown to 29.5 centimeters, not much of a leap with the tail growing to 22 centimeters from 21 cms.

It is unfortunate that it is one of the most poached creatures on the planet no matter where it exists. It's meat and scales are sold mostly to satisfy the Chinese  palate for exotic meats and the scales they pulverize (made of keratin) and sell as Chinese medicine. I can't say I have found any scientific data verifying it's medicinal efficacy.

The scaly anteater foraging in the bamboo groves. It feasts on several varieties of ant pupae. The mosquitoes in the grove then feast on me if I don't wear a mosquito repellant.

Here is a short video of Balin foraging on a rotting log infested with termites. The voice is his alternate care giver Jhun Solis.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Baby pangolin survives first month

Click photos to enlarge
The baby pangolin we rescued has managed to survive for over a month now, even though we have had no previous experience in raising one. It is taken out to forage on it's own every evening when it wakes up, or on rainy days, mud termite mounds are brought to the property which it tears apart and ravages! It eats so much it's stomach looks like a balloon by they time he's done. Afterwards it likes to go over to it's water dish and soak in it for a bit while drinking.

Palawan scaly anteater has a
prehensile tail and curls up when
frightened leaving it defenseless to
human poachers.
These animals are amongst the fastest disappearing animals in Palawan. They are poached and sent to China to fulfill their gastronomic palates and they use the scales as medicine, although there is no scientific evidence of the effectiveness. Over 2023 were found by illegal traders of wildlife, 2000 of them dead and already neatly packaged up in plastic bags.

Unfortunately, due to lack of education the locals sell them to poachers or even each other for bush meat. Many don't even know it's illegal to kill them.

This animal has no teeth, it eats only termites and ants. Each adult can consume up to 70 million insects per year.  It is natures' pest control and in the Philippines, is found only on the island of Palawan. When it is scared it curls up into a ball making it easy pickings for a human poacher.

This is the video the first time I watched it climbed the bamboo leg of another cage in it's habitat to eat ants after it had it's fill of water. That same night we let it forage on it's own, which is has been doing ever since.

It is a daunting task to raise these creatures. According to the specialists out there, I am one of a few they know of that have raised a pangolin this long, most die within a week or less. And even now I am always fearful for it. I do not recommend that people take on this creature to raise as a pet. We do plan to release him as soon as he is strong enough to manage on his own.

This baby scaly anteater/pangolin would not take milk in any form from any tpe of dispenser either.
One night it walked off the pation on onto the base of it and began digging. I found an ants nest and licked furiouly away at them. From then on it has been taken to the forests to forge on it's own.
They do grow quite large, up to 2 1/2 feet long,with it's tail about a third as long. Although it looks reptilian it is a mammal which does not breed easily. Perhaps every two years the females will give birth and then only one offspring at a time. They predict that if it continues to be poached at today's rate, they will be extinct in 8 years or less. They live in primary and secondary forests and grasslands as well. There is a lot of information about them on this blog.

Here is Balin, the balintong/pangolin getting weighed. We do weigh it everyday to see how fast it's growing. We also measure it's length every few days to get an idea of how fast it grows. Not much is known about these gentle creatures and we are collecting and writing down data about it from our own observations.
Here is a short video of it feasting on a large termite infested log on our property.

Rescuing a baby Palawan Pangolin or scaly anteater

I had never heard of a scaly anteater aka pangolin or balintong as they are called here in Palawan, before the afternoon when a village boy brought a baby here to be fed. I didn't know what it was, much less what to feed it.

It's little body felt so cold to the touch I put it in blankets to keep it warm till I was able to research it's care on the internet.

There wasn't a lot of information about the care of pangolins. I did read that they cling to their mothers up to 4 months of age and suckle for as long. This was definitely a problem. We tried every which way to give it milk and it wouldn't take in any at all. The night it was brought here, our assistant went out to the forest and brought a mud termite mound for it to eat from. It clawed at those for the first 2 days and then lost interest. We harvested some ants and termites into a bowl and it wasn't interested in those at all either.

First day of pangolin arrival April 4th, 2913.
It basically stopped eating for a day and a half. One night I stayed with it in the habitat room we have on our property for our own animals and other rescues and held it while it slept. It seemed to reassure it a bit. The next day it got up and walked into the drinking water we put out for it and began to crawl up the bamboo leg of a musang (palm civet) cage also in the room with it. I noticed it was lapping up some tiny ants crawling on it.

That same evening we gave it the termite mound, it refused it. We gave it a bowl full of termites, it refused. It then crawled down on the base of our cement patio and began to dig. It found an ants nest which it furiously began to claw at and lick. We realized it wanted to forage for itself. One of the boys in our village, Rj, a high school student, volunteered to take care of it and take it into the forest to forage each time it woke up. Bless his soul. Balin (as we call him now) the balintong or pangolin has now been with us for over a month and seems to be thriving.
One night after it stopped eating,I decided to comfort it by holding it close to my body. Since in the wild they do cling to their mothers for up to 4 month.
A few days after we got this little pangolin, a Chinese ship got stranded on the pristine and protected reefs of Tubatahha. The rangers boarded it and found 2000 dead and processed scaly anteaters neatly packed in plastic bags! This animal, the gentlest creature of all, which has no teeth and curls up into a ball as it's only defense is soon disappearing all over the world to satisfy the Chinese palate for it's meat and the scales in used in Chinese medicine. Even the local villagers eat it as bush meat. It's simply horrifying to me and unfathomable.

2000 dead and packaged pangolins bound for Chinese cuisine. Scales ground up into powder and sold in capsules as Chinese medicine
This photo was of 23 more pangolins found alive on yet another boat in Palawan. Fortunately all were alive, but one did die.
I wrote to several organizations and now I have several people helping me to monitor it's growth. A very caring woman named Sabine Shoppe from Katala Foundation, based in Puerto Princesa has brought me scales to weigh it each day and we also measure it every three days to monitor it's growth. She has come to our place a couple of times to see that the pangolin is indeed doing well. She's been a pillar of strength for me.

If you live in Palawan and read this, realize the people that work for you, especially in rural areas, may not know it is illegal to eat or sell them, so please tell them!!! They say it tastes like tell them to EAT CHICKEN! So much easier to grow.  The pangolin is our natural pest control in the forest, eating about 70 million termites and ants per adult annually!! Not to mention, it is found only in Palawan and not any other province in the entire Philippines.

We hope to grow the pangolin strong enough so that he can be released deep into the forest. I am afraid for it no matter where it's placed. Poachers go deep into the forests to harvest these poor animals as well as other endemic species and it seems it's a very well organized ring of poachers too from the recent body counts.

The PCSD, or the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development has been in touch with me and agrees the pangolin should remain in my care, even though it is technically illegal for me to have it. Since we are of the few in the world keeping one alive, they have granted me unofficial permission for now to raise it till it can be released.

I'd like to give my deepest and most profound thanks for many emails back and forth with good information on keeping this creature alive to:

Sabine Shoppe of the, based in Palawan for her site visits to my place and her good suggestions and advice, tools and instruments for weighing and measuring the pangolin as well as personal encouragement.

A wonderful woman, Lisa Hywood of the Tikki Hywood Trust in Zimbabwe who has emailed me often with good advice and she has bolstered my spirits with her encouraging words; because I often feel very insecure and terribly afraid I might do the wrong thing for the pangolin. She has given me good and practical advice from her own experience of creatures in that part of the world.

Markus Handschuh of the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiverity in Cambodia for the pdf's on the care and feeding of the pangolin and photos of the habitats there, as well as for his personal encouragement on our endeavors.